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Interesting Times by Tony Wilson

As a well established oldie, in conversations about a so-called over-privileged older generation I’m sometimes lumped in with ‘baby boomers’. Well, while those born after World War Two can speak for themselves, I have a few things to say about my experience in a somewhat older skin.

I was born to inter-war poverty and dread of the worst, before six long years of all out war when our homes were bombed flat and every stranger was a potential enemy, followed by another six or seven years of post conflict trauma, general shortage and food rationing… at best instructive, never easy.

I’m certainly not mean, but avoid waste if I can. To this day I make the most of things; food, clothes, bits of technology. Loath to throw anything away, I’ve restored at least two computers partly by deep freeze; re-fitted a caravan without glue, nail or screw… precision wedging; and like many others, buy used items including clothing. I can sew – yes, actually mend things (some might want to look that up). I often forage and I cook daily. Any privilege in later life comes from the sacrifice and labour of my contemporaries and antecedents.

I’m not grumbling, sparse childhood and national service made me, and I’m happy about that, but there was no luxury or privilege. Post war Britain was a hopeful place of new energy to make a better life for all.

Since those promising times of pulling together as one nation, I and many others protested the later changes that depleted the many hard won benefits of; social services, joined-up national railway, NHS, pensions, holidays, progressive education policies, and more. Now, after fifty years of division, so many homeless people live and die prematurely on the streets, we have a swollen no hope prison population, a gig economy, insecure short term tenants, and a minimum and a living wage (where is the logic?) set at levels unthinkable just a few years earlier. And fewer police, wrecking of social services, unfair expensive education, and breaking up of our wonderful NHS, to be followed by trashing of that planetary beacon of reliable news, information, and entertainment, the BBC. Not to mention the B word.

It seems we have even fewer hospital beds per thousand population than the USA and less than half the proportion of countries such as France for instance… that’s by design, not accident; the NHS once had enough beds and well paid dedicated staff… who changed that? Perhaps you did, by not voting or voting for the ones who told the best lies,  nudged by offshore commercial and media interests. And what about those appalling politicians? Well, there are some good politicians in all parties, but we need leaders with vision who live and learn with common people, and hold science/compassion led world views, looking to make a better life for everyone.

We need a science led economy, concerned to conserve and consolidate. History may well consider the current pandemic due to failure to heed signs of global warming while concentrating on 20th century ideas of economics and war. Defence should be aimed more towards avoiding systemic failure such as loss of electronic communications, pandemics, and crop failures, rather than over the top vulnerable aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines based on out of date cold war premise, too expensive to maintain properly (I know, I helped make ’em).

As I write in times of COVID 19 isolation, there are some fortunates safely bunkered away with the best food, wines, security and medical care. They’ll be fine, planning for bossy behaviour and exclusive living once we, the grateful surviving hoi polloi, are set to work again.

I hope as many as possible will survive COVID 19, to see beyond the misinformation and bluster of self interest that fogs our politics. We can have a better world if instead of heeding the haters, dividers and misinformers, we pay attention to real news and real issues, help and learn from each other, and make best use of our voices and votes. Just look at all the kindness this situation is creating, let’s go with that, not bonkers banking economics.

I am a realist and optimist, now and always. We can re-make the NHS for starters, with sufficient beds, staff and other resources to cope well for all of us, while making certain to look after our planet, our home.

Tony Wilson, BOPF Trustee